Father Mintu Lawrence Palma
Most Catholics in Bangladesh adhere to the marriage norms set by the Church but more needs to be done to bring about quality family life, says an official from the Dhaka archdiocesan marriage tribunal.
“About 99 percent of Catholics in Bangladesh get married following Church rites. However, they lack in fulfilling their marriage promises,” said Father Mintu Lawrence Palma, the judicial vicar of Dhaka Metropolitan Ecclesiastical Tribunal.
He pointed out that Bangladeshi Catholics tend to follow Church rules when it comes to getting married because if they don't they are often penalized. “The penalty includes a sacramental and social ban as well as a fee as punishment.” This has “a positive impact” among other Catholics because they fear the penalty and being looked down socially.
However, modern day living does affect family life for it strikes at love, faith, unity and the nurturing of children -- the “pillars” of a Catholic marriage, said Father Palma. “People are more educated now but also more egoistic and sometimes don't care to make adjustments in married life,” said the priest who deals with people having problems in their marriages.
Husbands and wives both working also make for difficult marriages. “Husbands disagree with their wife’s career choice and it creates suspicion that poisons married life,” said the 47-year-old priest. “The problem gets critical when there is a third party, which is common in joint families where people live together with parents and in-laws,” he said.
Father Palma, who also trains marriage councilors, said drug addiction and alcoholism are other two major problems affecting the family. “Physical and mental torture of women by the husband is a malicious practice that still continues in some places,” he said. Children from such families seriously lack formation and when they form families, they usually also have many problems, he added.
Overcoming challenges to married life is to look closely at these issues before the couple is married. They should know each other well before they make the final decision because not knowing each other well “is like plunging into sea,” he said.
People who prefer separation when problems arise don’t consider marriage to be a holy union. They like to flight instead of finding solutions. “I’ve seen in many cases of separation that choosing the life-partner was incorrect,” said Father Palma, who has a doctorate in canon law from the Philippines. Before that, he finished his Masters in canon law from India and did a year’s training at Bombay Archdiocese Marriage Tribunal.
The Catholic Church in Bangladesh has begun to address such issues especially through counseling to couples before and after they are married.
Both husband and wife have responsibilities to keep the marriage alive. Just as they are supposed to take one another to a doctor when sick, similarly they should go to the right person for counseling when they have problems, Father Palma said.
Helping Catholics lead a happy and peaceful family life is a major priority of local Church ministries, said Father Palma. Pastoral initiatives from national to grassroots level are conducted all year round. “We counsel couples at village, parish and diocese level through marriage tribunals and the family commissions. Couples are encouraged to attend seminars and the Church is planning to give family counseling an institutional shape through setting up diocesan centers,” he said.
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